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Graham Hancock and Rupert Sheldrake, a fresh take

Posted by: Tedstaff

We’ve been reviewing the response this past weekend to our decision to move two TEDx talks off the TEDx YouTube channel and over here onto the main TED Blog. We’d like to recap here what happened and suggest a way forward.

UPDATE: To discuss the talks, view them here:

The debate about Rupert Sheldrake’s talk
The debate about Graham Hancock’s talk

Four years ago, TED began an experiment in which we granted free licenses to people who wanted to organize their own local events in which ideas could be exchanged, with talks captured on film and uploaded to YouTube. These events use the brand name TEDx, where x stands for “self-organized.” Organizers pledge to work within a set of rules, but then they have freedom to run the event themselves. Speakers are invited without our pre-approval. Requests to hold TEDx events poured in from all over the world, and to date, more than 5,000 have been held, with around 8 more every day. There’s been TEDxBoston, TEDxAmsterdam, TEDxBaghdad, TEDxKabul, TEDxSoweto, and so forth, a thrilling explosion of idea sharing that has spawned more than 25,000 recorded talks on YouTube (uploaded there by the organizers themselves, without our prescreening). We have selected more than 200 TEDx talks to appear on ourmain TED.com homepage, where they have attracted millions of views. This growth is made possible by our deliberately open approach.

The obvious question is “how do you ensure the quality of these events”?

Our approach is to empower organizers to achieve greatness, by providing detailed guidelines – and guidance – on what works and what doesn’t. And we’re constantly amazed at how good most of these events are. But we also count on the community to help when things go wrong. Occasionally a TEDx event will include a speaker who causes controversy or upset. When that happens, someone in the community will flag the talk, and we have to decide how to respond.

One option would be to have an “anything goes” policy. We could just say that these events are the responsibility of the local organizer and wash our hands of it. The problem with that stance is that we would soon find the TEDx brand and platform being hijacked by those with dangerous or fringe ideas. And eventually credible speakers would not want to be associated with it. TED’s mission is not “any old idea” but “ideas worth spreading.” We’ve taken a deliberately broad interpretation of that phrase, but it still has to mean something.

The hardest line to draw is science versus pseudoscience. TED is committed to science. But we think of it as a process, not as a locked-in body of truth. The scientific method is a means of advancing understanding. Of asking for evidence. Of testing ideas to see which stack up and which should be abandoned. Over time that process has led to a rich understanding of the world, but one that is constantly being refined and upgraded. There’s a sense in which all scientific truth is provisional, and open to revision if new facts arise. And that is why it’s often hard to make a judgement on what is a valuable contribution to science, and what is misleading, or worthless.

Some speakers use the language of science to promote views that are simply incompatible with all reasonable understanding of the world. Giving them a platform is counterproductive. But there are also instances where scientific assumptions get turned upside down. How do we separate between these two? We have done two things as a tentative answer to this question:

- we’ve issued a set of guidelines to TEDx organizers.

- and we’ve appointed a board of scientific advisers. They are (deliberately) anonymous, for obvious reasons, but they are respected working scientists, and writers about science, from a range of fields, with no brief other than to help us make these judgements. If a talk gets flagged they will advise on whether we should act or not.

When Sheldrake and Hancock’s talks were flagged, the majority of the board recommended we remove them from circulation, pointing out questionable suggestions and arguments in both talks. But there was a counter view that removing talks that had already been posted would lead to accusations of censorship. It’s also the case that both speakers explicitly take on mainstream scientific opinion. This gives them a stronger reason to be listened to than those who simply use scientific sounding language to make nonsensical claims. So we decided we would not remove the talks from the web altogether, but simply transfer them to our own site where they could be framed in a way which included the critique of our board, but still allow for an open conversation about them.

What happened next was unfortunate. We wrote to the TEDx organizer indicating our intention and asking her to take the talks off Youtube so that we could repost. She informed the speakers of what was coming, but somehow the part about the talks staying online got lost in translation. Graham Hancock put out an immediate alert that he was about to be “censored”, his army of passionate supporters deluged us with outraged messages, and we then felt compelled to accelerate our blog post and used language that in retrospect was clumsy. We suggested that we were flagging the talks because of “factual errors” but some of the specific examples we gave were less than convincing. Instead of the thoughtful conversation we had hoped for, we stirred up angry responses from the speakers and their supporters.

We would like to try again.

We plan to repost both talks in individual posts on our blog tomorrow, Tuesday; note a couple of areas where scientists or the community have raised questions or concerns about the talks; and invite a reasoned discussion from the community. And there will be a simple rule regarding responses. Reason only. No insults, no intemperate language. From either side. Comments that violate this will be removed. The goal here is to have an open conversation about:

- the line between science and pseudoscience

- how far TED and TEDx should go in giving exposure to unorthodox ideas

We will use the reasoned comments in this conversation to help frame both our guidelines going forward, and our process for managing talks that are called into question.

Both Sheldrake and Hancock are compelling speakers, and some of the questions they raise are absolutely worth raising. For example, most thoughtful scientists and philosophers of science will agree it’s true that science has not moved very far yet in solving the riddle of consciousness. But the specific answers to that riddle proposed by Sheldrake and Hancock are so radical and far-removed from mainstream scientific thinking that we think it’s right for us to give these talks a clear health warning and to ask further questions of the speakers. TED and TEDx are brands that are trusted in schools and in homes. We don’t want to hear from a parent whose kid went off to South America to drink ayahuasca because TED said it was OK. But we do think a calmer, reasoned conversation around these talks would be interesting, if only to help us define how far you can push an idea before it is no longer “worth spreading.”

Comments (418)

  • Dan Booth Cohen commented on Mar 18 2013

    I am a PhD psychologist, whose research has been published in peer-reviewed journals.

    The fallacy in the TED criticism of Sheldrake’s talk can be seen in this quote from today’s blog. Tedstaff writes:

    “It’s true that science has not moved very far yet in solving the riddle of consciousness. But the specific answers to that riddle proposed by Sheldrake and Hancock are so radical and far-removed from mainstream scientific thinking.”

    It is illogical to acknowledge that mainstream science is stymied by the riddle of consciousness and then prohibit non-mainstream perspectives from being presented.

    Sheldrake absolutely merits inclusion on the main TED YouTYube sites. In this case TED was trolled by Coyne and Meyers. I urge you to reverse your error.

  • Kevin Parcell commented on Mar 18 2013

    You are engaged in inappropriate censorship and being dishonest about it. Removing these Talks from the channel is censorship. Denying it is ridiculous. Attempting to divert the discussion to the line between science and pseudoscience is a coverup. Removing this comment as insulting or off-topic would be proof, not that we need any.

    I believe you would do well to be begin by trying to distinguish between “hordes all worked up” and reasonable people disgusted.

    • Daniel Gill commented on Mar 18 2013

      They should watch the new David Bowie music video and then look at themselves in the mirror.

      We are legion.

      We are not going anywhere. We are modern. We are present.

  • James McManus commented on Mar 18 2013

    I think it’s fair to characterize this as censorship (reviewing published work and suppressing the stuff deemed unacceptable). The word was not always as emotionally charged as it is today. If TED doesn’t want this word applied to their actions, then they shouldn’t practice censorship.

    After learning of this situation, I went back and saw a couple of other censored TEDx talks, including an economist with whom I disagree, and some weird “vortex math” guy spouting gibberish. I don’t see an “open discussion” about their presentations anywhere on this blog. They were just quietly removed.

    From the sequence of events, I am confident the same would be the case here, if not for the public response. So the fact that these two videos were uploaded to Vimeo and given a blog post is not evidence that censorship did not occur.

    Hancock and Sheldrake were invited to give talks. They gave talks. It’s done. Some vocal sciency bloggers claimed that allowing such people to get on the stage is akin to dragging TED’s name through the mud. To fight hyperbole with hyperbole, I would say that going back and deleting the talks is like washing away the mud using soap made of feces.

    I also recall seeing a TED (or was it TEDx; it doesn’t matter) talk where the speaker basically just played videos of blobs of oil in a petri dish and not-so-subtly implied that the activity was related to the early stages of life. As far as I know, this one wasn’t censored, presumably because it wasn’t critiqued by the activist bloggers. The content was junk as far as science goes, but it was still interesting.

    THAT is what I have always liked about TED. The talks are often (not always) thought-provoking, educational, and/or inspirational. When you publish thousands of talks, there will always be some controversy. There will always be a bottom 1% (a different 1% for every viewer) in terms of quality. That does not justify going back and altering the archives to give a misleading account of history.

  • jack smith commented on Mar 18 2013

    A fresh take? I don’t think so.. Reply to the 1000 comments that have been posted on your website! some may have been Grahams followers some Rupert’s BUT most were just shocked TED listeners like me (if I followed Graham do I not deserve a reply?)..we wanted a discussion! you hide and start a new blog? No real new information from TED, your just trying to break up the commotion you caused. What a weak move. Bravo guys, this isn’t going away.

    • Daniel Gill commented on Mar 18 2013

      I hope people read the nuclear bomb I dropped onto this page.

      Dr. Rupert Sheldrake and psychic phenomenon is pseudoscience. Hey? Tell that to the Americans living in your very country of origin who claim to hear God’s voice in their heads. Tell that to the millions maybe billions of people around the world who hear the voice of kin in their heads. Regularly. Even me. Tell that to the many people who have been driven psychotic by spiritual emergence phenomenon. largely as a consequence of practicing yoga and qi gong for instance.

      Is this pseudoscience? No it is totally legit science. This is what actually happens. This is what people actually experience. You are scientists your job is to account for it somehow. It won’t go away.

  • Frank Matera commented on Mar 18 2013

    Asking a board of scientists whether a talk questioning taboos and teachings within Science should be removed… is the equivalent of asking a bunch of used car salesman to vote on whether a story about used car salesman all being sleazy should remain.

    There is nothing “Independant” about that decision.

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  • Daniel Gill commented on Mar 18 2013

    We live in a globally connected world bombarded with information to do with good health and wellbeing in the media. This high awareness about health has lead to the successful proliferation of lots of alternative medicine in the private sector, and it has caused a lot of controversy with mainstream science. There is a tendency for entrepreneurs to want to patent and license a pitch that they can profit from when the tides or winds of trendy come their way, but isn’t it most wryly ironic that ancient traditional practices like yoga or qi gong have been lost in this rat race of patenting the next big thing? More bizarre still is that these same ancient practices that are being promulgated in a patent war proliferated as good health, are known to be the very practices where angels fear to tread – Yoga and Qi Gong being known to cause insanity and longtime demonic assault to their practitioners. I believe that, like water rising in seeking its own level, as we say, yoga and practices like qi gong or reiki have grown in popularity through social media not because people are crazy or deluded but because something about it works. I also suspect that evangelical Christians are finding spiritual fulfillment in their charismatic practices. I don’t believe that it is coincidental for Christians to perceive the Holy Spirit as a substance that they can feel pneumatically filling them – like a gas. In Korea, the infilling of the Holy Spirit is believed to be ki. Koreans adopted Christianity influenced by geomancy; channeling the spirits of national heroes through cairns on sacred mountains. We are breeding swarms of new radical fanatics but who have no conception of the original cultural contexts from which the practices they hold dear may originate. Moreover, we are under increasing pressure to find any commonality in these deeply meaningful religious experiences that are seemingly at odds with one another. We have a long standing empirical account of recorded data with respect to the phenomenon of spiritual emergence psychosis. It is a well known albeit perhaps not perfectly understood consequence of shamanic initiation. It manifests from a spontaneous energy influx from seemingly outside forces. I believe personally that it manifests from communion via the extended mind. I myself had a spontaneous awakening experience. If those who share my feelings that the marketing of alternative healthcare is incompatible with psychosis and schizophrenia – would have it as our goal to raise awareness of mediumship as a hearthstone for all forms of channeling – then we must back up our position with evidence. I feel that we need to change the culture because the current zeitgeist compelling people into taking up channeling – is wrong, in fundamentally important ways. The other important point to make is that enlightenment or gnosis from communion with spirits means that the communion can be done by oneself. I am pleased to assert the fact that lots of evidence for spiritual emergence psychosis from initiation into mediumship does exist. It even has western historical precedence. See the appended bibliography at the end of this write up. This piece is an attempt to shed some light on what those universal practices are, and are an exploration into my own gnostic assessment of what I have zero’d in on, that holds some potential I think for disrupting the cash-nexus held by the champions of alternative health services. We have an opportunity not seen since the Victorian era’s promulgation of spiritualism to present religion and spirituality as an empirically scientifically real indigenous tradition. This is not an attempt to be accurate or professional in any way. I’m simply stating that what I have read of mediumistic east-asian cultures, and of spiritualism, does not match up with TED’s view of the universe. I feel it deserves a consideration considering the fact that these practices are known to trigger psychotic states and longtime mental health problems. I think that my presentation of this material for the readers here and for TED frames such material albeit in a peculiar light, but also within wider context. I am committing a faux pas taking things out of context, but I feel it is important to do so in a multi-culutral society.

    Here is my small list of references to do with psychosis, mediumship and channeling.

    GHOSTS OF WAR IN VIETNAM by Heonik Kwon

    SPIRITS WITHOUT BORDERS by Karen Fjelstad

    SINISTER YOGIS by David Gordon White

    COLERIDGE AND THE DAEMONIC IMAGINATION by Gregory Leadbetter

    THE HISTORY OF SPIRITUALISM by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

    THE DARKENED ROOM: WOMEN, POWER, AND SPIRITUALISM IN LATE VICTORIAN ENGLAND by Alex Owen

    OZARK MAGIC & FOLKLORE by Vance Randolf

    THE IDEA OF THE HOLY by Rudolf Otto

    SHAMANISM IN KOREAN CHRISTIANITY by Jang Nam Hyuck

    KUT: HAPPINESS THROUGH RECIPROCITY by Hyun-key Kim Hogarth

    KOREAN SHAMANISM -MUISM by Dr. Kim Tae-kon & Dr. Chang Soo-kyung

    OCCULT JAPAN: SHINTO, SHAMANISM, OR THE WAY OF THE GODS by Percival Lowell

    ESSENCE OF SHINTO: JAPAN’S SPIRITUAL HEART by Motohisa Yamakage

    WHEN GOD TALKS BACK by T. M. Luhrmann

  • kristen Jones commented on Mar 18 2013

    Really news that Ted is re-looking at this matter. Congratulations Ted on taking this action. However; there are two problems still as yet, unaddressed. Firstly, in the spirit of fairness and openness the people who make up the science board must be made known so that its views can be objectively examined if necessary. Anything less doesn’t cut it. We need to see that Ted has a good spread of scientific minds that represent more than just the old compartmentalized materialist approach to science. There is now a veritable stream of newer and challenging scientific experiments and theories unfolding. Why not add Dean Radin and Sheldrake himself to your panel, if they are willing to accept. Now THAT, Ted, would really be something! They may not be “mainstream” but their reputations as scientists are impeccable. Secondly, and most importantly in terms of Ted’s reputation, these two talks MUST, I repeat, MUST, be put back on to the original platform. This is a very important sign of good faith for Ted to do taking into account all the circumstances that have unfolded. It also removes once and for all the unpleasant censorship issue which otherwise does not go away.

    • Stephen Collins commented on Mar 18 2013

      Kristen, you appear keen to make some demands that don’t stand up under generally accepted levels of scrutiny.

      Review of expert materials in both the scientific and other expert communities is done anonymously more often than not and is the case in order to protect the diversity of views and the reviewers professionally from accusations of bias and influence. You can see the policy from a journal on repute, Nature, at http://www.nature.com/authors/policies/peer_review.html. It insists upon anonymity for its reviewers.

      Why would TED do different?

      As someone who has been both a reviewer and reviewed in my field, I wouldn’t have it any other way (though it’s certainly the case that I’ve been curious as to who my reviewers were more than once).

      This whole affair has nothing to do with censorship, unless the definition you’re using is rather broader than the norm. TED (as they are within their rights to do) chose to remove the talks from the TEDx YouTube Channel, and republished them here, on a high-traffic blog, open for the world to see and discuss. That is most certainly not censorship, and the level and rate of discussion certainly suggests your assertion doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

      It’s also the case, as I’ve noted elsewhere on this thread, that presenters at TEDx events sign a release that states quite clearly that neither the TEDx event they speak at, nor TED are under any compulsion to publish their presentation.

      • sandy stone commented on Mar 18 2013

        Nonprofit institutions should aim for transparency in such situations, at least if they are hoping to maintain credibility and public support. I’m not exactly sure what TED is hoping for these days, other than perhaps that people will stop asking so many difficult questions.

        TED’s attempt at damage control is failing. Anything short of a public apology to Sheldrake and Hancock, full disclosure of the members of the so-called “science board”, and reinstatement of the videos on the TEd youtube channel will be seen for what it is, censorship.

        TED has once again underestimated the public. People can spot BS. They can make up their own minds about videos, and they can make up their own minds about TED.

        • Stephen Collins commented on Mar 18 2013

          Sandy, I have to disagree with you on all points. But, that’s the beauty of adult discourse – we can do that.

          Better yet, should we be able, we can retain and manage two opposing views in our minds at once, where neither has to strive to meet; they just are. I’m perfectly happy with TED’s position and actions in this case (and in previous instances), but I also understand others aren’t; I don’t agree with them, but I don’t have a problem with that, either.

      • Margaret Gouin commented on Mar 19 2013

        I’m sorry, Stephen, but I have to reply to this again (I replied to your early post on the subject of peer-review but you may not have seen it). The process in anonymous peer-review, at least the process I’m familiar with, is anonymous BOTH WAYS. That is, the person whose work is being reviewed doesn’t know who the reviewers are; and the reviewers don’t know whose work they’re reviewing. In the latter case, it is to protect the person whose work is being examined from the reviewers’ possible prejudice. That’s why, when you submit an article to a peer-reviewed journal, the author information is sequestered in a separate document.

        • Stephen Collins commented on Mar 19 2013

          Margaret, I replied on the other part of the thread. Comments there.

      • Dan Booth Cohen commented on Mar 19 2013

        “Why would TED do differently?”

        Stephen, the situation is quite different. The peer-review procedures apply to articles submitted for publication. Once an article is published, all criticism and debates that ensue are published under signatures. Nature would not publish a commentary to an article in a subsequent issue signed by an anonymous “scientific board.”

        Rupert Sheldrake has been publishing his research for 30 years. The organizers who invited him to speak were knowledgeable about his theories. They then chose to publish his talk on YouTube. There are two levels of review right there.

        After that, Coyne and Meyers, two vocal skeptic-debunkers, attacked Sheldrake, as they have been doing for years, using the same flimsy and unsubstantiated criticisms that they always use.

        TED removed the videos without comprehending the facts or the science. Clearly the claim of a review by a scientific board is a sham. The alleged false statements cannot be found in the actual videos. There was no review. The reason the board members are hiding behind the shield of anonymity is because no one wants to soil their good name by claiming responsibility for this debacle.

      • John Campbell commented on Mar 19 2013

        Are you comparing TED to Nature or any other peer-reviewed scientific journal?

        Not censorship? What about the hundreds of blogs and other social media outlets who linked to the original youtube videos and are now blanked out? Or how about the discussions that were on the original youtube posts? The videos are blanked from any post on the Internet that linked to the original and some of the re-uploaded copies, and yet you claim no censorship? For an organization that has Technology as part of its acronym, you have a pre-Internet definition of censorship. How you can say it isn’t is either an indication of fuzzy thinking, or an attempt to dishonestly defend your position at all costs.

        Very sad.

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  • sandy stone commented on Mar 18 2013

    As far as TED being a “brand” trusted in schools goes, the message is spreading through the university communities that this is not the case. You know a message is getting around when it comes back to you from many unrelated sources. TED=censorship. That’s what I’m hearing these days.

  • sandy stone commented on Mar 18 2013

    I’d like to know who is on the science board. Jerry Coyne made the initial complaint. Did he also act as Judge and jury to convict these men of heresy?

  • Evan Martin commented on Mar 18 2013

    Yet again you make this insulting and evasive claim that the hundreds of people deriding the decision to censor these talks are all Hancock’s “army of passionate supporters” that “deluged” you with “outraged messages.”

    The main reason for the outrage displayed in those 1000+ comments
    IS NOT
    primarily because we are fans of either speakers (if you had actually read the comments you would see that many, equally repulsed, have stated that this was their first introduction to them) but because we are
    long time and passionate fans of TED TALKS,
    and we are (to be explicit yet honestly descriptive) nauseated to see the vector of ideas and inspiration we had come to love display such paramount arrogance and jaw-dropping stupidity (again, sorry for such language, but please see the many dozens of air-tight rebuttals to the mindless and false accusations) and to utterly defile the rational ethics based on networked information and innovation that we had come to associate with TED.

    We are shocked and so deeply offended, not only because you slander and defame these two sensible and esteemed speakers, nor only because you (CHRIS) have directly insulted us and our intelligence multiple times in that “discussion”, but because you have permanently damaged the reputation and brand of TED that has meant so very much to us over the years.

    And the damage only gets worse with every day you continue to censor (please stop pretending it isn’t attempted censorship, that’s just embarrassing) as more and more bloggers and social media users spread the only obvious truth of this situation: that of TED’s disgraceful, intellectually inept and ethically warped actions towards these TEDx talks.

    The only way – I repeat – the ONLY WAY to slow the now inevitable (and completely justified) decay of TED’s reputation and brand is to publish a retraction along with a full and complete apology to both presenters as well as TED viewers who were misinformed, lied to and even personally insulted. And of course, the return of the videos (along with the thousands of comments and discussions on those videos that were removed along with videos, if possible).

    Try not to think of the tone of the comments as outrage for your actions but desperate, direct and dire warnings from those who LOVE the TED brand and are incredibly pained by this abominable behavior.

  • damien mahoney commented on Mar 18 2013

    Here’s Rupert Sheldrake response. Found this via a search online, so I hope its the full text. Apologies if it isn’t.

    March 18, 2013
    “I would like to respond to TED’s claims that my TEDx talk “crossed the line into pseudoscience”, contains ”serious factual errors” and makes “many misleading statements.”
    This discussion is taking place because the militant atheist bloggers Jerry Coyne and P.Z. Myers denounced me, and attacked TED for giving my talk a platform. I was invited to give my talk as part of a TEDx event in Whitechapel, London, called “Challenging Existing Paradigms.” That’s where the problem lies: my talk explicitly challenges the materialist belief system. It summarized some of the main themes of my recent book Science Set Free (in the UK called The Science Delusion). Unfortunately, the TED administrators have publically aligned themselves with the old paradigm of materialism, which has dominated science since the late nineteenth century.
    TED say they removed my talk from their website on the advice of their Scientific Board, who also condemned Graham Hancock’s talk. Hancock and I are now facing anonymous accusations made by a body on whose authority TED relies, on whose advice they act, and behind whom they shelter, but whose names they have not revealed.
    TED’s anonymous Scientific Board made three specific accusations:
    Accusation 1:
    “he suggests that scientists reject the notion that animals have consciousness, despite the fact that it’s generally accepted that animals have some form of consciousness, and there’s much research and literature exploring the idea.”
    I characterized the materialist dogma as follows: “Matter is unconscious: the whole universe is made up of unconscious matter. There’s no consciousness in stars in galaxies, in planets, in animals, in plants and there ought not to be any in us either, if this theory’s true. So a lot of the philosophy of mind over the last 100 years has been trying to prove that we are not really conscious at all.” Certainly some biologists, including myself, accept that animals are conscious. In August, 2012, a group of scientists came out with an endorsement of animal consciousness in “The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness”. As Discovery News reported, “While it might not sound like much for scientists to declare that many nonhuman animals possess conscious states, it’s the open acknowledgement that’s the big news here.”
    But materialist philosophers and scientists are still in the majority, and they argue that consciousness does nothing – it is either an illusion or an ”epiphenomenon” of brain activity. It might as well not exist in animals – or even in humans. That is why in the philosophy of mind, the very existence of consciousness is often called “the hard problem”.
    Accusation 2:
    “He also argues that scientists have ignored variations in the measurements of natural constants, using as his primary example the dogmatic assumption that a constant must be constant and uses the speed of light as example.… Physicist Sean Carroll wrote a careful rebuttal of this point.”
    TED’s Scientific Board refers to a Scientific American article that makes my point very clearly: “Physicists routinely assume that quantities such as the speed of light are constant.”
    In my talk I said that the published values of the speed of light dropped by about 20 km/sec between 1928 and 1945. Carroll’s “careful rebuttal” consisted of a table copied from Wikipedia showing the speed of light at different dates, with a gap between 1926 and 1950, omitting the very period I referred to. His other reference (http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/lightandcolor/speedoflight.html) does indeed give two values for the speed of light in this period, in 1928 and 1932-35, and sure enough, they were 20 and 24km/sec lower than the previous value, and 14 and 18 km/sec lower than the value from 1947 onwards.
    1926: 299,798
    1928: 299,778
    1932-5: 299,774
    1947: 299,792
    In my talk I suggest how a re-examination of existing data could resolve whether large continuing variations in the Universal Gravitational Constant, G, are merely errors, as usually assumed, or whether they show correlations between different labs that might have important scientific implications hitherto ignored. Jerry Coyne and TED’s Scientific Board regard this as an exercise in pseudoscience. I think their attitude reveals a remarkable lack of curiosity.
    Accusation 3:
    “Sheldrake claims to have “evidence” of morphic resonance in crystal formation and rat behavior. The research has never appeared in a peer-reviewed journal, despite attempts by other scientists eager to replicate the work.”
    I said, “There is in fact good evidence that new compounds get easier to crystallize all around the world.” For example, turanose, a kind of sugar, was considered to be a liquid for decades, until it first crystallized in the 1920s. Thereafter it formed crystals everyehere. (Woodard and McCrone Journal of Applied Crystallography (1975). 8, 342). The American chemist C. P. Saylor, remarked it was as though “the seeds of crystallization, as dust, were carried upon the winds from end to end of the earth” (quoted by Woodard and McCrone).
    The research on rat behavior I referred to was carried out at Harvard and the Universities of Melbourne and Edinburgh and was published in peer-reviewed journals, including the British Journal of Psychology and the Journal of Experimental Biology. For a fuller account and detailed references see Chapter 11 of my book Morphic Resonance (in the US) / A New Science of Life (in the UK). The relevant passage is online here: sciencesetfree.tumblr.com
    The TED Scientific Board refers to ”attempts by other scientists eager to replicate the work” on morphic resonance. I would be happy to work with these eager scientists if the Scientific Board can reveal who they are.
    This is a good opportunity to correct an oversimplification in my talk. In relation to the dogma that mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works, I said, “that’s why governments only fund mechanistic medicine and ignore complementary and alternative therapies.” This is true of most governments, but the US is a notable exception. The US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine receives about $130 million a year, about 0.4% of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) total annual budget of $31 billion.
    Obviously I could not spell out all the details of my arguments in an 18-minute talk, but TED’s claims that it contains “serious factual errors,” “many misleading statements” and that it crosses the line into “pseudoscience” are defamatory and false.”

  • Wendy Howard commented on Mar 18 2013

    This smacks of a sorry attempt at damage limitation and a lame stab at trying to clutch onto some vestige of moral authority. It reminds me of nothing so much as a schoolteacher caught out by his/her pupils and digging themselves into an even deeper hole by clinging desperately to the maintain-authority-at-all-costs stance because of the notion that a teacher cannot possibly be seen to be in the wrong. It’s a ludicrous position to take. If kids can see straight through it, surely you don’t imagine you’re going to fool intelligent adults?

    What would restore genuine respect – and indeed the only thing which will – is an admission that you got it seriously wrong and an apology to those concerned. Both Sheldrake and Hancock have comprehensively demolished your weak assertions against them. There is nothing else to debate.

    As I commented on the previous post, the notion of ‘pseudoscience’ is bogus. Since the whole edifice of scientific enquiry is predicated on assumptions which are essentially untestable (eg. the existence of an ‘objective reality’ independent of the observer on which the entire concept of proof and falsifiability is predicated), then no hypothesis can be dismissed on the grounds of untestability. The genius of the scientific method, which you are comprehensively corrupting here, is that it holds no prejudice. ‘Pseudoscience’ is a guise for ideological prejudice which has absolutely NO place in proper science.

  • Joe Anderson commented on Mar 18 2013

    If one of your Science Board members isn’t willing to step out of the shadows and debate the man they insultingly referred to as a “pseudoscientist”, maybe you could arrange for one of your pals Jerry Coyne or PZ Myers to face Sheldrake in a TED sanctioned debate? Seeing as they were outraged by his talk surely one of them would have the courage to step away from their blog and debate Sheldrake. And please, in the spirit of “radical openness” go ahead and post Sheldrake’s rebuttal to your charges here, where they will be more widely seen, so your viewers can see just how incredibly wrong you were in your criticisms. Thanks!

  • Solomon Buccola commented on Mar 18 2013

    What is the point of this “fresh take?” If the star-chamber “science board” won’t even come out and identify themselves, then is there any possibility that someone in charge is going to be convinced that these talks are not really pseudo-science and that an apology is in order? No. Of course not. It is clear that this “science board” doesn’t even know what the meaning of pseudo-science is.

    The fact that there is no hope of making any progress here is especially clear since most of the stated reasons for identifying these talks as pseudo-science have already been identified as blatant misrepresentations of what the speakers actually said. If the TED powers had any intention of reconsidering or apologizing, they would have done so already.

    • Joe Anderson commented on Mar 18 2013

      1. TED removes presentations by Sheldrake and Hancock at the urging of some angry atheist bloggers- this is crazy enough in itself. They publicly thank these bloggers and go on to insult Sheldrake and Hancock and grossly misrepresent their presentations. And I mean big time. If you doubt me just read the responses by Hancock and Sheldrake.
      2. Hancock and Sheldrake respond, their responses make clear that the leadership at TED essentially lied to the community by misrepresenting the talks.
      3. TED tries to bury Sheldrake’s incredibly damning response, which I think they have been in possession of for days, by immediately publishing this “Fresh Start” post after putting Sheldrake’s response on the old thread. Guess they were hoping to minimize the impact of Sheldrake’s response- if I’m wrong let me see TED publish Sheldrake’s response here, ALONG with their original charges against him. I encourage EVERYONE to go read Sheldrake’s response in the old thread. He absolutely DESTROYS the arguments TED made for the removal of his video.

      I like your reference to a “star chamber”. This all feels a bit like the Inquisition to me. Anonymous accusers out to destroy the reputations of anyone who dares to challenge the orthodoxy. And still no apology.

  • Joe Anderson commented on Mar 18 2013

    TED, instead of burying Sheldrake’s response in the old thread (which is now near the bottom of the front page), why not post it on this thread, along with your original attack on him, so more people can see just how effectively Sheldrake dismantled your charges against him. Simply put, Sheldrake’s rebuttal makes it clear you were WRONG? This is the thread people will now be looking at- kind of funny that you had it ready to go as soon as you posted Sheldrake’s rebuttal in the old thread. I’m thinking you wanted to minimize the impact of Sheldrake’s response. Anyway, please see if one of your anonymous Science Board members, you know, one of the folks who “diligently” reviewed Sheldrake’s work and clearly got it wrong, would be willing to step out of the shadows and debate Sheldrake in a TED sanctioned debate. Considering they’ve slandered Sheldrake by referring to him as a “pseudoscientist”, I think it’s the least they can do. I sincerely hope one of them has the courage to face Sheldrake in a debate and publicly defend now only that position but the charges they ignorantly leveled at his talk. You can even make the debate R rated so all the children you claim you’re trying to protect won’t be able to see it. :)

  • Graham Hancock commented on Mar 18 2013

    Tedstaff write: “TED and TEDx are brands that are trusted in schools and in homes. We don’t want to hear from a parent whose kid went off to South America to drink ayahuasca because TED said it was OK.”

    This is given as a justification for the removal of my presentation, “The War on Consciousness” from the TEDx Youtube channel where it had received in excess of 132,000 views before it was axed.

    How therefore does TED explain its complete acceptance and endorsement of the content of Tim Brown’s 2008 presentation “Tales of Creativity and Play”, a presentation that has now received in excess of 842,000 views on the main TED Talks website (http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_brown_on_creativity_and_play.html) when this talk contains a clear endorsement of the psychedelic drug mescaline as a means to boost creativity by shocking people “out of their normal way of thinking and getting them to forget the adult behaviours that were getting in the way of their ideas”

    If you construe my presentation as dangerous because it might send a kid “off to South America to drink ayahuasca because TED said it was OK” shouldn’t you also construe Tim Brown’s talk as equally dangerous because (since TED has said it was OK) it might send a kid off to consume mescaline in order to boost his creativity and perhaps even to benefit from the same sort of “great start with innovation” that Silicon Valley did. This is a serious question and I suggest it implies a deep double standard on the part of TED. If you don’t think it represents a double standard please explain to me why not. The relevant section of Tim Brown’s talk is between 11 mins 57 seconds and 14 mins 22 seconds and here is the transcript:
    “So now Bob McKim did another version of this test in a rather famous experiment which was done in the 1960’s… Anybody know what this is [on-screen image of peyote cactus]? It’s the peyote cactus; it’s the plant from which you create mescaline. One of the psychedelic drugs. For those of you around in the 60’s you probably know it well…. McKim published a paper in 1966 describing an experiment that he and his colleagues conducted to test the effects of psychedelic drugs on creativity. So he picked 27 professionals – they were, you know, engineers, physicists, mathematicians, architects, furniture designers even, artists – and he asked them to come along one evening and bring a problem with them that they were working on. He gave each of them some mescaline and had them listen to some nice relaxing music for a while, and then he did what’s called the Purdue creativity test…. Now actually he gave the test before the drugs and after the drugs to see what the difference was in people’s sort of facility and speed with coming up with ideas and then he asked them to go away and work on those problems that they’d brought. And they came up with a bunch of quite interesting solutions actually quite kind of valid solutions to the things they had been working on [gives multiple examples of the things they worked out]. So it was a pretty successful evening. In fact maybe this experiment was the reason that Silicon Valley got off to its great start with innovation. You need to ask some of those CEO’s whether they were involved in this mescaline experiment, But really it wasn’t the drugs that were important. It was this idea that what the drugs did was help shock people out of their normal way of thinking and getting them to forget the adult behaviors that were getting in the way of their ideas.”

    • Joe Anderson commented on Mar 18 2013

      Graham, Wade Davis, the ethnobotanist and author of The Serpent and the Rainbow is listed by TED as a member of their “Brain Trust”- I think people from this might actually constitute their Science Board (but maybe not).
      http://www.ted.com/pages/41
      You or your fans might want to review some of his many talks for TED and see if some hypocrisy on the part of TED becomes apparent. I’ll add that if you look at his Wikipedia page there is also some controversy regarding some of his scientific research. By the way, I’m a fan of Wade and think it would be a awful if his talks were removed- but I’m starting to sense some unfairness in how TED decides to apply their “rules”. Here is his profile on TED:
      http://www.ted.com/speakers/wade_davis.html

    • Evan Martin commented on Mar 18 2013

      Also Roland Griffith’s talk about how the psychedelic psilocybin engenders mystical experiences and healthier behavior. There are a few others that describe such facts and scientific and anthropological research that escape my mind right now.

      I think the difference with your talk is that you brought up how demented and unconscionable the efforts to repress consciousness through violence and propaganda are. Suggesting that things as they are can and should be changed may have touched a nerve with those who cling to and profit from the established system that destroys countless lives and pillages ecosystems.

    • nick evans commented on Mar 19 2013

      Graham,
      You are more qualified than most to answer or elaborate on what I would like to have a better understanding of in regards to our evolution and science as a whole. We all have read and understood the clause of TED and what they claim to want to represent and we have witnessed the apparent and obvious censorship of two voices under the guise of “pseudoscience”. I have read all the responses from the Curator and the other representatives of TED and the best reasons they have given is in rebutle to your explination of your ayahuasca experience and what materialistic, reductionist scientists really think given the rigidity of their world view. This was your rebutle to the allegations that still linger…

      Rather I address the mystery of life after death and state that “if we want to know about this mystery the last people we should ask are materialist, reductionist scientists. They have nothing to say on the matter at all.” That statement cannot possibly be construed as my suggesting that “no scientists are working on the problem of consciousness,” or of “misrepresenting” what materialist, reductionist scientists actually think. I am simply stating the fact, surely not controversial, that materialist, reductionist scientists have nothing to say on the matter of life after death because their paradigm does not allow them to believe in the possibility of life after death; they believe rather that nothing follows death.

      I understand that TED does not want to tarnish their own name and platform by allowing any old “shmo” to speak about whatever comes to mind, but if we are to evolve beyond our current status do we not have to hypothesize and reach beyond the constrains and rigidity of that particular world view? What if the universe and ultimately the human body is much less like a “machine” than previously thought to hint on Mr. Sheldrake’s presentation? What if 5 years or 10 years down the road an experiment could be conceived to prove the theory that our brains are a kind of transceiver of consciousness rather than producing it? Does limiting our perspectives of the world around us not hinder and limit us thus slowing down our evolution as a whole?

      I get the facts that they need a hint of structure, but censorship based off loose allegations only strengthens your message and your cause. This has also given you and Mr. Sheldrake more publicity even if your reputation and hard work took an initial bruising. Your life experiences with Ayahuasca and with all those you have encountered along the way bring forth more knowledge and wisdom than most can comprehend. Thank you for your generosity in sharing all your life’s experiences and Please continue making great contributions to humanity. You are a man of immense integrity, dignity, courage and I have a deep respect for who you are and what you strive to become. I cherish the day coming in May at the conference in Nashville that I shake your hand Sir. Thank you again for all your contributions and wish you the best in solving this particular debacle.

  • Steve Stark commented on Mar 18 2013

    What are the “obvious reasons” that a science board would need to remain anonymous?

    • Stephen Collins commented on Mar 18 2013

      Anonymous peer review is an established norm across many disciplines. It protects both authors and reviewers from claims of bias and interference.

      It’s certainly not flawless, but it is a known and accepted practice.

      • Steve Stark commented on Mar 18 2013

        But this is a board, like an editorial board, which is rarely, if ever, anonymous.

        • Stephen Collins commented on Mar 18 2013

          I’ve certainly been a part of, and also subject to, anonymous peer review boards – professionally and academically.

          Is it the name that’s the irritant? As in a “board” ought to be open and something else could be closed?

        • Steve Stark commented on Mar 18 2013

          I think one main issue is integrity inasmuch as it has been in short supply so far, and one way to get that back would be transparency. I also think it is important for speakers to know the kind of organisation they are dealing with before agreeing to talk and, potentially, having their names dragged through the mud. I am thinking here, for example, of whether the board is drawn entirely from those with affiliations to ideologically motivated pressure groups such as CSI(COP).

          Then there is also the issue of competence – neither talk was primarily scientific in nature, and given the almighty hash TED’s previous unnamed science board made of reviewing two 15 minute talks, it would be good to know exactly who on that board has the expertise to review the content of such talks. Benny Shanon, anyone?

        • Scott Bryson commented on Mar 20 2013

          Just wanted to make an early mention that there are original petitions on these matters that are still relevant since the matter is hardly resolved and there is the matter that after close to 200k views and many comments, there is no word if the YouTube videos will be restored.

          There are also links to some of the principle parties and a timeline of events:

          https://www.change.org/petitions/ted-stop-the-censoring-of-the-graham-hancock-tedx-talks-video

          https://www.change.org/petitions/ted-stop-the-censoring-of-the-rupert-sheldrake-tedx-talks-video

      • Sebastian Penraeth commented on Mar 18 2013

        TED is not a scientific journal. It’s more of an entertainment venue, is it not?

        That said, I don’t have any problem with an anonymous board.

        • Stephen Collins commented on Mar 18 2013

          It doesn’t need to be, Sebastian.

          I’ve been on and been subject to conference boards for a number of disciplines (non-scientific as I’m not a scientist) that have accepted and rejected papers, just as I’ve been on and been subject to academic review boards for papers for academic credit. Many or most of them anonymous.

      • Frank Matera commented on Mar 18 2013

        Anonymous peer review is not fine when it is about censorship and removal of information.

        In REAL science you have groups do anonymous peer reviews of your findings, but if those anonymous peer reviews don’t agree with your original findings they don’t take a match to your work so that nobody can ever see it again.

        They make both the original findings and the peer reviewed work available publically so that people can review the data and make their own minds up. Over and over again anonymous peer reviewed studies have been found to have flaws (especially when it comes to PSI) where it is obvious the peer reviewer let their pre-conceived bias misinterpret the data.

        That is in effect what we have had here. Bias got in the way, and books tried to get burnt. That’s not what anonymous peer reviews are about.

        • Stephen Collins commented on Mar 18 2013

          Frank, in my experience as both reviewer and reviewed, neither reasons for, nor original materials get published – your paper simply doesn’t get a run.

          There seems to be a particularly broad definition of censorship being used by many here, one that mistakes actual censorship (the suppression and removal of something) with what is, to be frank, open and public discussion of a matter.

          TED’s publication of these two talks on their high traffic blog and their preparedness to take the heat for calling out these talks as problematic under their guidelines (whether or not you agree with that decision) seems to be something akin to the opposite of censorship to me.

          And, after all, TED, the TEDx Channel on YouTube and whatever other properties they have, online or off, are theirs to do with as they see fit.

        • Caleb Grayson commented on Mar 19 2013

          — the anonymous board knew who Sheldrake and Hancock were so how are there free from bias?

          i’ve submitted work, but without my name attached to it. that’s what anonymous means, not that we don’t know the name of the reviewers. that doesn’t effect anything, it’s the name of the one submitting the work for review. and, if it is rejected it doesn’t get run, but these guys were accepted and then publicly denounced. can you help me how in any way that is the same as an anonymous peer review board like any in professional circles? its a post review board — a bizarre notion.

      • Margaret Gouin commented on Mar 19 2013

        Stephen, in anonymous peer review both the reviewers AND THE REVIEWED are anonymous. This is why, when you submit an article to a peer-reviewed journal, the author information is in a completely separate document. Here we have known persons being reviewed by anonymous persons, which doesn’t fit any form of ‘anonymous peer-review’ I’m familiar with.

        • Stephen Collins commented on Mar 19 2013

          Margaret, you’re correct on academic review. I’ve been a part of more than one conference selection panel, however, where the panel knew who they were reviewing.

          Regardless, for academics, conferences, and TED, it’s an imperfect system. TED are giving their community a way to help them determine something closer to ideal by engaging in this process, here. I reckon it behooves us all to contribute usefully to the debate, regardless of which side (or none) we fall on.

      • Marcus T Anthony commented on Mar 19 2013

        The problem is that the gatekeepers at the Kingdom of Scientific Orthodoxy are far from impartial. I do believe that this all started with PZ Meyer and Jerry Coyne. These people are not impartial observers of knowledge. They fall at the extreme end of a philosophical continuum. The skeptical community is heavily ideologically and philosophically driven. Many do not realise that the world has moved on from the year 1900, and that hard-core scientific materialism has well and truly passed its used by date. In its original decision to stigmatise these two talks and take them off Youtube and TED’s main site section, TED is aligning itself with a radical philosophical position typified by intolerance, closed mindedness, misrepresentation of facts and a “discourse” typified insults and derision. This clearly runs against the original “spirit” of the TED organisation.

        You also called Sheldrake “thin-skinned”, and accuse him of having a sense of entitlement. I see nothing of the sort. What do you expect him to do when TED pulls his video, misrepresents both its content and his ideas, and labels him a “pseudo-scientist”? Do you expect him to ignore you? To go away and meditate on it? Good on Sheldrake for standing up for himself. Same for Hancock.

        To classify what Sheldrake writes as “pseudoscience” is simply wrong.

        Firstly, his talk is philosophy of science. He is asking questions about the distinction between science as a method of inquiry and the way it is practiced and delimited by institutional, cultural, paradigmatic and historical factors. Are we to silence those who ask questions which make us feel uncomfortable? Banish those who try to make unquestioned presuppositions conscious? Deep questioning has been the bedrock of Western thought since the time of Socrates, and it is supposed to an essential part of the scientific method. The pseudoscience comes from those who refuse to permit others to ask questions and exile them to the far-flung corners of the kingdom.

        Secondly, Sheldrake is clearly a scientist. He has a PhD in plant physiology and worked at Cambridge. He researches, conducts experiments and presents results in peer-reviewed academic journals. He discusses the results openly in public forums with other scientists. As many have suggested, why not have an open debate with him? The problem is, of course, that few scientists in the conservative skeptical community have read the relevant literature or bothered to acquaint themselves with the issues. Many are arrogant and uninformed, making truth claims founded upon those aforementioned shaky presuppositions. If you look at TED’s original page on this topic, exactly the same mistake was made there. The writer arrogantly dismissed Sheldrake’s and Hancock’s talks without having bothered to properly examine their content – thus the huge number of factual errors and straw men contained in that write-up.

        I do appreciate that TED appears to be restoring the videos a more “normal” location (if I understand the intention). However it has to be admitted that this has been very sloppy work from TED. If TED is claiming to be an arbiter of what is genuine and legitimate knowledge, it should at least inform itself of the contents of the videos it is sanctioning – and of course the knowledge base which underpins them. I see no evidence that this has happened here.

        Having said this, I am hopeful that much good will come of this. It appears TED is at least beginning to acknowledge some of its errors here. Certainly an apology to both speakers is required, given the misrepresentation of them and their work. Would that be too much to ask?

        • kristen Jones commented on Mar 19 2013

          Well said Marcus.

          In light of the mistakes made, the vidoes should be put back on the SAME platform they were on before they were pulled.

          This would satisfy the perception of ongoing censorship. And No, Ted doesn’t “have” to do this. It’s just the right thing to do in the circumstances that have unfolded here. Neither of these guys fits the definition of pseudo scientists and both were speaking at an event specifically designed to test and push existing boundaries. That’s what makes this all quite strange.

          Both Sheldrake and Hancock have now more than adequately addressed the original reasons given by Ted for pulling the videos. The truth is they shouldn’t have been taken down.

          So, Come on Ted!…Do the right thing and put things back the way they were. Restore our faith in you. Let your anonymous board make further anonymous comments there if they really want to and we’ll all go ahead and form our own views. This will only enhance not detract from Ted’s reputation.

        • Stephen Collins commented on Mar 19 2013

          Marcus, I’ve been engaged in this conversation for the best part of a day, so this response needs must be both brief, and my last. I rather think my family will think ill of me if I dedicate the evening to it as well.

          To label Sheldrake’s talk pseudoscience versus science philosophy is a matter of degrees, I think, and one could easily fall to either side of that argument. In doing so, I think you’d tend to take a view to one side or the other of what’s transpired. I fall to one side; I’m no scientist, but I deal with the communication of science and technology pretty regularly in my work.

          In my experience, the rationalist and skeptic community are rarely conservative. Rather, they’re very open-minded, but insist upon proofs. There’s certainly members of that community who are as you describe, and they don’t help, but most aren’t that way in my experience.

          I’ve been a part of reviewing, selecting and putting on stage talks across a number of events. Many of those talks represented views I wasn’t supportive of. That doesn’t diminish them at all, though it diminishes me to dismiss them without critical and open-minded evaluation.

          Overall, this conversation has undoubtedly been bruising to TED, and to the presenters. If fewer of us (myself included) had chosen to buy in and had allowed TED and the presenters to argue it out, things would likely have ben rather different.

        • Marcus T Anthony commented on Mar 19 2013

          Thanks, Stephen. You are certainly right that I am far from impartial myself. I’ve gone out of my way in my academic work to be as transparent about my mystical proclivities as possible, which does come with a price, of course. I have a TEDx talk on YouTube which crosses into similar territory to the two videos at the heart of this debate. Hopefully it won’t be taken down! It does take a great deal of courage to stand on stage and challenge mainstream convictions, especially when one begins to pry away at the philosophical foundations of some of those those in the audience! It’s only natural that people experience discomfort and fear when challenged, and things may get emotional from that point forward. I know its beside the point as far as the topic of “censorship” goes, but I thought Graham Hancock was quite courageous to express vulnerability in his talk.

          I’m always optimistic, even in the heat of debate. Although I am sometimes direct (I’m an Aussie, too!), I don’t believe that confrontational binaries are the best way to understand some domains of knowledge – in particular consciousness. As I have stated, I feel TED could have handled this much better, but that doesn’t mean the organisation should be condemned to hell. We all make mistakes, and imperfection is just part of being human. I’m quite happy to stick around and be a part of the discussion in a civil manner.

        • Reece Sullivan commented on Apr 9 2013

          Well said, Marcus.

      • John Campbell commented on Mar 19 2013

        So anonymous peer-review is also a standard practice at TED? Is TED a scientific journal? How many of your other speakers have been subject to anonymous peer-review?

        • Stephen Collins commented on Mar 19 2013

          John, anonymous review of this type is also common for a large number of professional conferences. I’ve certainly been on both sides of the fence professionally and academically.

          Like I said, it’s an established practice (with flaws).

        • Dave Reed commented on Mar 19 2013

          Stephen it’s very hard to take any of what you say seriously at all. You come off as for civil discourse but then also say:

          [begin quote]

          Stephen Collins commented on Mar 19 2013
          I’m not sure. At my events, we try to have talks that meet what we call “head and heart” criteria. We’ve had everything from Nobel Prize Laureates to disability advocates to former Catholic priests.

          The two things we won’t have at my events are active politicians of any sort, and people presenting views on science and medicine that don’t stand up under scrutiny. Matters of philosophy on many matters are naturally something of a free for all.

          Perhaps Burning Man would have been a more apt forum for these talks?

          [end quote]

          Burning man? Seriously.

        • Stephen Collins commented on Mar 19 2013

          Dave, conceded. It was a throwaway comment at the end of something and it ought not have been made.

        • John Campbell commented on Mar 19 2013

          So Mr. Collins, do you advise the TEDx organizers that their speakers will be subject to anonymous peer review? Is there a policy you can direct to that states that if a talk mentions science or critiques science that it will be subject to anonymous peer review? Is this the norm for all your speakers who may wander into the dominion of your science board, or is it only something you apply retroactively?

        • Stephen Collins commented on Mar 19 2013

          John, here’s what I (and several others) do as our interpretation of the TEDx rules which as organisers, we must follow:

          - a presenter with a science or medicine talk comes to our attention
          - we do some due diligence on the presenter, looking for published work, peer review (positive or negative), criticism and the like
          - talk to the potential presenter about their subject and ask questions about the reproducibility of the science and how close it is to publishable (if it isn’t already)
          - seek out advice from third parties (I’m lucky enough to be in a city with an excellent science community, a couple of universities with great science schools, and I have access to a number of science communicators)
          - at that point, if we’re happy, ask the presenter to speak

          Each event is independent, though, with the rules guiding us. So, others may interpret the rules both more strictly or less so.

    • Brian Akers commented on Mar 20 2013

      What would be the significance of individual identities in this context? It seems a non-conscientious objection, in absence of issue other than Sheldrake/Hancock fans upset. Do the principles of critical rigor, scientific methods and interest, depend on ‘who is who’?

      The interest in ‘naming names’ seem like an inrush of digression – to fill a vacuum of genuine issue. What purpose, other than an ad hominem, could such info serve? To me it seems it would merely enable a shifting focus from valid critical inquiry into subject matter, toward inquisition of persons. There seems no sound basis for complaint other than uproar from partisans – mostly anonymous (post-avatars).

      I would applaud TED for instantiating a high standard of critical integrity, against coy attempts to oppose it. I hope TED will stand firm on principle. “What are their names, and on what streets do they live?” was a great David Crosby lyric. But in this context, I question its meaning and purport as I see it exercised.

      • Marcus T Anthony commented on Mar 20 2013

        Genuine critical integrity would require a careful perusal of the content of the talks before defaming the speakers and attempting to censor them. It would also require a response to Sheldrake’s reference to the scientific evidence which lies behind some of his ten questions. Genuine critical integrity does not run from open questioning. It embraces it. It certainly does not attempt to push away questions, debate and evidence that falls beyond its present level of understanding or comfort zone.

        • Brian Akers commented on Mar 20 2013

          Question of ‘defamation’ seems unwarranted in context you pose. It doesn’t stand in evidence, under my microscope. Much the same, in your ref to ‘censorship’ — specifically, as directed in recriminatory fashion against TED. I can still see those talks, hear every word.

          In proper context, censorship is a serious issue. But like so many issues, it can be misused, precisely because of how serious. Your implicit position seems to be accusatory, that someone at TED has neglected “careful perusal of the content.” I don’t find any such question in evidence here, looking through my eyes – the ones I got.

          In comments I’m reading here, a sense or presumption of entitlement seems apparent — as if TED may not exercise its discretion, in its own house, from its sense of purpose, ownership and responsibility.

          Science curricula have been under siege since the 1970s, when “Scientific” Creationism was unleashed. Ideology impersonating theory, pretending to be something relevant or intellectual, in order to demand a place at science’s table – is monkey business. No matter how well-crafted a wolf’s Sheepskin costume, it is what it is. And it warrants alert vigil.

          For the Sheldrake and Hancock presentation kerfuffle – I think the real issue, rightly identified by TED (imho) – is pseudoscience. If it were just entertainment, it’d still be problematic. But ideologically-driven pseudoscience is even more concerning. That stuff expresses purposes beyond crass PT Barnum flimflam, commercial exploitation. In modern milieu, pseudoscience has become a tactic of religious-like missionary operations, trying to fly below radar, and stake claims on false pretense.

          I would respectfully but sharply question the context of allusions here to ‘censorship’ or ‘defamation’ etc. The validity, per se, of perspective in which they are being grieved here strikes me as tactical and strategic. To me it comes off as partisan and prejudicial, not substantive or compelling.

      • Marg Uerite commented on Mar 20 2013

        ‘ Do the principles of critical rigor, scientific methods and interest, depend on ‘who is who’?”

        Apparently it does in this case, since the vitriol against Sheldrake is political, rather than scientific.

        • Marg Uerite commented on Mar 20 2013

          I should say “political and psychological”

  • Cory Warshaw commented on Mar 18 2013

    I find it interesting that most of the detractors are supporting Hancock, but don’t often mention Sheldrake. I would assume this is because Sheldrake makes provably false claims, such as ideas like morphic resonance. Many people here are conflating the ideas of being contrary to the mainstream and being provably wrong. There is such a thing as bad science, sure there is a possibility that the Earth is flat, but would TED be wrong to say that is a false statement? I can already tell that nothing I say here will change peoples minds, but I just want to cover two more things that are brought up a lot.

    Anonymity of Science Advisory Board: Just look at this thread, could you imagine the amount of hate-mail and spam that these people would get. And the personal attacks and media battles that would ensue. Who in their right minds would take the job? The anonymity is important to the function of their job so they can issue their unvarnished opinions without critic. This is just like how the proceedings of a jury are anonymous.

    People keep saying that Hancock was not promoting drug use. While it is true that he never explicitly states that people should take psychedelics, he at the very least implies that there are significant benefits to their use. This is obviously an extreme example, but it would be like saying “this pill will cure cancer, but I am not explicitly endorsing it’s use”. What it ultimately comes down to, is that if his talk is about questioning materialist reductionist modalities, why spend so much time on drug use? And if the drug use is an important step to breaking those archetypal modalities, then aren’t those drugs a great thing?

    It may very well be true that the drugs are a powerful tool to help understand the very strange world we live in. Basic ideas of quantum mechanics show that our brain is not suited to understanding some ways the universe works. I think there would be little controversy to say that these concepts pose a significant challenge to a materialist reductionist model. The problem is by taking a halfway approach (not explicitly endorsing drugs but extolling their benefits) Hancock’s talk could easily influence someone to take these psychedelics in a irresponsible manner. I don’t think any high school students are going to fly to South America, but I don’t think anyone here would disagree that a bad trip on mushrooms can be extremely psychologically damaging. I think responsible adults should be in control of their own bodies/consciousnesses, but I think there needs to be more clarification on what qualifies as a responsible adult.

    So to sum it up, yes traditional modalities can and should be challenged, but I do not think this is why these talks were pulled (I am a TEDx organizer not a TED staffer). Sheldrake made false statements, and Handcock, admittedly a more borderline, case needs to clarify what he is standing for.

    • Steve Stark commented on Mar 18 2013

      I think Hancock stated fairly clearly what he stood for. He said it’s a unbelievable scandal that governments will lock you away for many years, thus ruining your life, for exercising your sovereign right to explore your own mind in your own home, whilst hurting nobody else, using techniques that have used ever since modern humans first appeared on this planet. He calls this a war on consciousness.

      • Rome Viharo commented on Mar 18 2013

        ” I would assume this is because Sheldrake makes provably false claims, such as ideas like morphic resonance.”

        That’s not actually true. The problem in the scientific community is not that Sheldrake’s hypothesis has been proven to be false, but rather the opposite, it is (at this stage at least) unfalsifiable – and therefore not amendable to science until it’s able to be experimented upon.

        • Conor O'Higgins commented on Mar 18 2013

          “Sheldrake’s hypothesis has been proven to be false, but rather the opposite, it is (at this stage at least) unfalsifiable – and therefore not amendable to science until it’s able to be experimented upon.”
          This is not my understanding of the morphic resonance hypothesis. It makes testable claims like -
          - When one animal has learned something, other animals of the same species will learn it faster. (This includes humans.)
          - When a crystal has been formed in one lab, that same crystal will form more easily in other labs.
          - Psychic communication is possible; dogs can know when their owners are coming home; people can tell who’s on the other end of a ringing phone.
          - Constants measured in different labs across the world will fluctuate together.

        • Rome Viharo commented on Mar 19 2013

          @ conner Higgins response below mine.

          Actually those experiments you mention do not prove morphic resonance but they would support the hypothesis. Sheldrake has done his own experimenting (dogs for example) with a statistical average favoring his hypothesis. Crystals have been shown to show this behavior, and so have rats. However that does not prove morphic resonance or the existence of morphic fields. For example the Flynn effect is also supportive of Sheldrake’s hypothesis, but does not prove it.

        • Conor O'Higgins commented on Mar 19 2013

          Sure, they support the theory, rather than proving it. That is science.

          A scientific theory cannot be proven. But I thought that people reading your comment would get the impression that Sheldrake’s theory does not make falsifiable predixions, which it does.

        • Marg Uerite commented on Mar 20 2013

          ” I would assume this is because Sheldrake makes provably false claims, such as ideas like morphic resonance.”

          That’s not actually true. The problem in the scientific community is not that Sheldrake’s hypothesis has been proven to be false, but rather the opposite, it is (at this stage at least) unfalsifiable – and therefore not amendable to science until it’s able to be experimented upon.”

          Both above statements are untrue.

          Sheldrake has done two things:

          He has pointed out that the assumptions underlying the orthodox “scientific view” are false. He named them. There are 10. Is there some reason you feel you are qualified to comment upon his work without reading it?

          He has accumulated evidence , over decades, which is statistically significant; using experiments that qualify as bona fide air-tight scientific experiments and which prove the effects he claims, beyond a reasonable doubt – statistically.

          The actual theory of what he is found, is not worked out. And his work, agreed, has not been “falsified.”

          The only reason it is not “falsifiable” , according to your own standards, the standards of his critics, is because it is true?

          Is that the case? The only way you can falsify it is to not read it and just make the claim?

          Or are you even qualified to judge it since you have obviously very slight familiarity with it.

          I suggest for a beginning course:

          “A New Science of Life” , which is very short.

    • Graham Hancock commented on Mar 18 2013

      Cory Warshaw writes: “The problem is by taking a halfway approach (not explicitly endorsing drugs but extolling their benefits) Hancock’s talk could easily influence someone to take these psychedelics in a irresponsible manner.”

      If that is correct then does it not also apply to Tim Brown’s presentation,”Tales of Creativity and Play” (http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_brown_on_creativity_and_play.html) which has been in full public view on the main TED talks website since 2008, and which suggests that the consumption of the psychedelic drug mescaline can boost creativity and might even have been responsible for the “great start with innovation” witnessed in Silicon Valley. I don’t understand the double standard — my talk taken down of the TEDx Youtube channel (where it had accumulated in excess of 132,000 views) and hived off to this sequestrated corner of the TED site where it is surrounded by all sorts of warnings and cautions,but Tim Brown’s talk (which has accumulated in excess of 842,000 views) in full public view on the main TEDx website with no such armature of cautions and warnings.The relevant section of Tim Brown’s talk is between 11 mins 57 seconds and 14 mins 22 seconds and here is the transcript:
      “So now Bob McKim did another version of this test in a rather famous experiment which was done in the 1960’s… Anybody know what this is [on-screen image of peyote cactus]? It’s the peyote cactus; it’s the plant from which you create mescaline. One of the psychedelic drugs. For those of you around in the 60’s you probably know it well…. McKim published a paper in 1966 describing an experiment that he and his colleagues conducted to test the effects of psychedelic drugs on creativity. So he picked 27 professionals – they were, you know, engineers, physicists, mathematicians, architects, furniture designers even, artists – and he asked them to come along one evening and bring a problem with them that they were working on. He gave each of them some mescaline and had them listen to some nice relaxing music for a while, and then he did what’s called the Purdue creativity test…. Now actually he gave the test before the drugs and after the drugs to see what the difference was in people’s sort of facility and speed with coming up with ideas and then he asked them to go away and work on those problems that they’d brought. And they came up with a bunch of quite interesting solutions actually quite kind of valid solutions to the things they had been working on [gives multiple examples of the things they worked out]. So it was a pretty successful evening. In fact maybe this experiment was the reason that Silicon Valley got off to its great start with innovation. You need to ask some of those CEO’s whether they were involved in this mescaline experiment, But really it wasn’t the drugs that were important. It was this idea that what the drugs did was help shock people out of their normal way of thinking and getting them to forget the adult behaviors that were getting in the way of their ideas.”

    • Sebastian Penraeth commented on Mar 18 2013

      Cory said… “I would assume this is because Sheldrake makes provably false claims, such as ideas like morphic resonance.”

      On the contrary, I believe Sheldrake made no false statements or even misleading ones. He briefly gave alternative explanations from his own work to illustrate the point he was making, but he clearly couched these as opinion.

      You seem to think that because Sheldrake’s theory of formative causation is radical, it is equivalent to believing the earth is flat, and has no scientific merit. Yet Sheldrake has expounded at length on his theory in a careful, rational manner, citing precursory theories, reviewing supportive empirical evidence, etc. More than this, he’s performed and published many experiments to investigate the theory. Even so, I often hear him say that it is not yet proven. Nevertheless, it’s not in any way disproven either. He’s presenting an explanation for phenomena that standard scientific models can’t explain. How is that not the very essence of scientific inquiry?

      What seems obviously fallacious to you, and to others, is not so to me, nor to many other very smart people.

    • Dave Reed commented on Mar 18 2013

      “I would assume this is because Sheldrake makes provably false claims, such as ideas like morphic resonance. Many people here are conflating the ideas of being contrary to the mainstream and being provably wrong.”

      OK, where’s the provable evidence that morphic resonance/fields do not exist? Since Rupert is about the only one around talking about it and the concept is ephemeral I don’t see much evidence disproving the concept. Maybe you should point to some. I doubt you will. Sheldrake’s response gave specific supporting documentation to the crystals and rat behavior. Since it appears you haven’t yet bothered to read Sheldrake’s response I reproduce it here (the part about morphic resonance):

      [start quote]

      Accusation 3:
      “Sheldrake claims to have “evidence” of morphic resonance in crystal formation and rat behavior. The research has never appeared in a peer-reviewed journal, despite attempts by other scientists eager to replicate the work.”

      I said, “There is in fact good evidence that new compounds get easier to crystallize all around the world.” For example, turanose, a kind of sugar, was considered to be a liquid for decades, until it first crystallized in the 1920s. Thereafter it formed crystals everyehere. (Woodard and McCrone Journal of Applied Crystallography (1975). 8, 342). The American chemist C. P. Saylor, remarked it was as though “the seeds of crystallization, as dust, were carried upon the winds from end to end of the earth” (quoted by Woodard and McCrone).

      The research on rat behavior I referred to was carried out at Harvard and the Universities of Melbourne and Edinburgh and was published in peer-reviewed journals, including the British Journal of Psychology and the Journal of Experimental Biology. For a fuller account and detailed references see Chapter 11 of my book Morphic Resonance (in the US) / A New Science of Life (in the UK). The relevant passage is online here: http://sciencesetfree.tumblr.com/

      [end quote]

      As for the anonymity of the Science Advisory Board, I find it mystifying considering the relative fame and caché attached to the TED “brand.” Being asked to join the Board should be considered a very great honor (at least until a week ago), so I don’t think anyone on it would desire to remain anonymous. In fact most agencies and companies openly publish their Science Advisory Board members because it enhances their credibility. Come to think of it we don’t really know that there exists a “Science Advisory Board” at TED. How could we since they’re anonymous? For all we know then is Anderson could be asking his cat!

      • Sebastian Penraeth commented on Mar 18 2013

        Cats CAN be very insightful. :-)

        Given everything else involved here, I think the anonymous board is a non-issue. It is, however, kind of wimpy.

    • Conor O'Higgins commented on Mar 18 2013

      “I find it interesting that most of the detractors are supporting Hancock, but don’t often mention Sheldrake. I would assume this is because Sheldrake makes provably false claims, such as ideas like morphic resonance. Many people here are conflating the ideas of being contrary to the mainstream and being provably wrong”
      Yes, I noticed that too. Perhaps it’s because Hancock posted this controversy on social media accounts?
      There is a difference between Sheldrake’s talk and Hancock’s, as you point out. Sheldrake identifies himself as a “scientist” and, as a scientist, he makes falsifiable claims, as you correctly state. (I have never seen any experiment that falsifies morphic resonance.) Hancock, on the other hand, himself identifies as a journalist and his TEDx talk is largely about personal experiences.

      “he at the very least implies that there are significant benefits to their use”
      That’s a very reasonable claim. He also states that there are significant dangers to their use.

      “Sheldrake made false statements”
      Which statements do you mean?

    • Troy Tice commented on Mar 18 2013

      Hi Cory,

      “I find it interesting that most of the detractors are supporting Hancock, but don’t often mention Sheldrake.”

      Graham Hancock has nearly 30,000 more followers on facebook than Sheldrake. The prevalence of Hancock supporters is probably just an artifact of this discrepancy.

      “I would assume this is because Sheldrake makes provably false claims, such as ideas like morphic resonance. Many people here are conflating the ideas of being contrary to the mainstream and being provably wrong. There is such a thing as bad science, sure there is a possibility that the Earth is flat, but would TED be wrong to say that is a false statement?”

      Personally, I don’t find morphic resonance compelling, but the coherence or incoherence of morphic resonance has no bearing on whether Sheldrake’s experiments on, say, telepathy were poorly-designed or conceived. In fact, several academics have praised the methodology of Sheldrake’s experiments while remaining skeptical of morphic resonance, Daryl Bem, for example.

      “While it is true that he never explicitly states that people should take psychedelics, he at the very least implies that there are significant benefits to their use.”

      Significant benefits that are being corroborated by scientific research, like the recent experiments with psilocybin and anxiety in terminal cancer patients or MDMA assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. Of course, these are conducted in controlled environments. In the case of psilocybin, the anxiety decreases *because* the dosages used have been calibrated to bring on psychedelic experiences similar to mystical experiences. For the most part, though, the scientists conducting these experiments have – wisely – remained ontologically neutral as to the origins of these states.

      “The problem is by taking a halfway approach (not explicitly endorsing drugs but extolling their benefits) Hancock’s talk could easily influence someone to take these psychedelics in a irresponsible manner. I don’t think any high school students are going to fly to South America, but I don’t think anyone here would disagree that a bad trip on mushrooms can be extremely psychologically damaging.”

      Hancock’s talk could very easily influence people to take psychedelics in an irresponsible manner, but that is not Hancock’s fault, nor is it reason enough to sequester his talk. He said several times that ayahuasca and other psychedelics should not be taken recreationally.

      Troy

    • Cory Warshaw commented on Mar 18 2013

      I’m going to make one last reply, since I was pleased to see well thought out responses by seemingly knowledgeable people. But then for my own sake I have to let this issue go.

      As far as Sheldrake, I don’t want to go point by point, but just a quick reply to morphic resonance. I admit I am no expert in this but if enthalpy of fusion was reduced every time a crystal was formed, then after billions of years of ice formation all around the world it should be essentially energetically free to do so. Unless there is something special about anthropocentric formation, and even then humans have been making ice for a long time. I could go on with other stuff, but to me his talk was the more blatant offender.

      As far as Hanock, I have to admit myself that I think this is a very borderline case, and I am not sure myself on what I would do. I am not trying to say that any claims to benefits of drug use is invalid and I know there is a lot of interesting research in that area. But ultimately what it comes down to is that a talk advocating for psychedelic drugs use is obviously a touchy subject, and to be frank he does have some responsibility for the people he influence to take these drugs. Again does that mean the talk should be pulled, at this point I’m not totally sure, but is it understandable that TED would not want that brand association, yes.

      • Troy Tice commented on Mar 18 2013

        Hi Cory,

        I understand your reluctance to get too involved with these debates, especially since you are unlikely to change anyone’s mind and they can take away your time from my pressing things (like my dissertation, oops).

        As I said above, I am not too keen on morphic resonance, but then again, I don’t think one necessarily needs to accept Sheldrake’s more radical speculations in order to appreciate his experimental rigor. If you have the time you might be interested in these:

        The first is a book review by the respected social psychologist Daryl Bem where he makes nearly the same point. (Frustratingly, one of the pages is missing.)

        http://www.scientificexploration.org/journal/reviews/reviews_18_3_bem.pdf

        The second is this video by Simon Thorpe, a British neuroscientist who heads a neuroscience lab run by CNRS in France.

        In this video he talks about some of the experimental evidence for psi. Although his survey of the evidence has convinced him that there is something to psi phenomena, I am attaching it here more because I respect that he engaged the literature with an open mind before making his opinion. (I would have respected him even if he came to a negative conclusion.) What is frustrating to me is how many people make pronouncements on these things (and this even includes proponents) without any sort of familiarity with the evidence. This ignorance, coupled with ideological, sociological and financial factors, goes a long way, in my opinion, to explaining the scientific backwater parapsychology now finds itself in.

        • Troy Tice commented on Mar 18 2013

          Ugh, I wish we could edit our responses. There are always typos.

        • Dave Reed commented on Mar 18 2013

          Hi Troy – thoughtful comment! (this isn’t about you..). “In this video he talks about some of the experimental evidence for psi. Although his survey of the evidence has convinced him that there is something to psi phenomena, … ”

          Therein lies the fundamental problem between the materialists and Sheldrake’s work – that these ‘scientists’ need to have experimental evidence for psi. Once someone experiences it firsthand the need for experimental proof goes away. People who have telepathic experiences don’t need the ‘rigorous scientific method’ to verify it. The cat waiting every day for my housemate to return didn’t need a double-blind study and Sheldrake notices this and says, “Let’s investigate!” Next he’s getting his talks shoved away into some dark corner.

          I’d bet that Coyne, et. al. have never had even a slight paranormal experience or even noticed a synchronicity.

        • Troy Tice commented on Mar 18 2013

          Hi Dave,

          For myself personally, if I were to have, say, a Near Death Experience or a precognitive dream, I would not need experimental proof, at that point, to convince myself of the reality of these things. However, it’s good that science is being brought to bear on this subject. Short of experiencing it myself, I want rigorous scientific proof.

        • Dave Reed commented on Mar 18 2013

          Yes, it is good that science is being (finally) brought to bear on these subjects. As a person who regularly experiences these things I always wonder why people are so deathly afraid of even considering that psi exists! Those who wish to control thought and behavior must be quaking in their boots thinking that telepathy and precognition might become widespread. Hard to wiretap that, no?

          You postings here have been very cogent and thoughtful, BTW.

        • Steve Stark commented on Mar 19 2013

          I think this video illustrates TED’s problem nicely. Here is, I believe, a well reasoned argument, with a ton of extraordinary data, all from an apparently eminently qualified individual, and yet if TED posted the video certain mainstream scientists with skeptical leanings, like those discussed in the video itself, would immediately claim that TED was a disreputable organisation promoting pseudoscience. So that’s the problem.

          Now, I think the answer is clear – I think there is extraordinary data that nobody can explain on a topic that is fascinating to many/most people, and it should clearly be presented to the public. However, if TED does this it will incur the wrath of some who are adamant that no such evidence even exists. So ultimately the question is for you TED: what kind of organisation do you want to be? One that spreads the type of ideas discussed in the video above, or one that aligns itself with the skeptics who feel, for one reason or another, that such evidence is so obviously bogus that it should not be made publicly available in any reputable forum.

          My only advice in answering this question is for you to appraise the information in this video, and what has been said about it by qualified people (Honorton and Hyman’s joint communique is a good start), and decide whether those who say there is interesting evidence to be looked at (eg, Thorpe, Sheldrake) or those who say there is none (eg, Coyne, Myers) are the ones most accurately representing the actual state of affairs.

          You need not follow that advice of course, but whatever you decide, you should seek out qualified representatives from the camp you side with and try to work out a policy appropriate to the type of organisation you have just decided to be.

        • Steve Stark commented on Mar 19 2013

          Re my suggestion that you need to find out what informed and appropriately qualified people are saying on this ‘litmus test’ issue, here are some comments about the current state of the evidence for psi.

          This is from Jessica Utts a statistics professor at the University of California:

          “Using the standards applied to any other area of science, it is concluded that psychic functioning has been well established.” http://www.ics.uci.edu/~jutts/air.pdf

          Here’s Richard Wiseman, noted skeptic and Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire:

          I agree that by the standards of any other area of science that remote viewing is proven, but begs the question: do we need higher standards of evidence when we study the paranormal? I think we do. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-510762/Could-proof-theory-ALL-psychic.html

          Here’s skeptic Ed J. Gracely, writing for Quackwatch:

          “Had skeptics said some 40 years ago that all we wanted was reasonable quality replicated research, we might now be having to eat our words.” http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/extraproof.html

          Here’s skeptic Michael Sofka:

          “As an example, the PEAR or auto-ganzfield results are by any stretch of the imagination extraordinary studies. They are large meta-studies incorporating hundreds of separate experiments. They are the “proof” of psi-effects for skeptics, and everybody else to see. I have read those studies and remain unconvinced. I would be convinced, however, by the same level of data for a variety of other effects.” http://homepages.rpi.edu/~sofkam/talk/talk.html

          And above in the video you have Simon Thorpe who concludes that even though psi is “impossible” the evidence is compelling. Now, not all (and perhaps none) of these people are completely convinced of the reality of psi. It’s not even clear to what extent Sheldrake is either. But one thing all those informed people, who have made it their business to study the phenomenon, have in common, is a clear understanding that there is a large body of evidence for psi, and that that evidence is rather extraordinary and difficult to explain away. It’s existence is certainly not open to question.

          Now, here’s Jerry Coyne, writing in his complaint about Sheldrake on your initial call for views:

          “I have posted a long critique of Sheldrake’s talk at my website. The talk is intensely anti-science, decrying materialism, touting ludicrous and unevidenced ideas like “morphic resonance”… and other woo-ey notions like ESP (no evidence for that, either).” https://www.ted.com/conversations/16894/rupert_sheldrake_s_tedx_talk.html

          I draw your attention to the last sentence about there being “no evidence” for ESP/psi. Now, at some point you are going to have to make a judgement about the expertise, reliability, and motives of those who have decided to monitor the content of your talks. In connclusion I will not that, as Dean Radin says: “skeptics who continue to repeat the same old assertions that parapsychology is a pseudoscience, or that there are no repeatable experiments, are not only uninformed about the state of parapsychology, they are also uninformed about the current state of skepticism!” http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org/Examskeptics/field_guide.html

      • Sebastian Penraeth commented on Mar 19 2013

        Cory, I appreciate your participation even if we disagree, and understand wanting/needing to move on to other things.

        It’s obvious that you don’t understand Sheldrake’s theory of formative causation, which is not to say you must. It was not the topic of his talk, though he mentioned it briefly, so to me it seems off topic. However, from what Chris Anderson has said, all Sheldrake’s ideas are “on trial” here, in the interest of determining if he is a pseudo-scientist. Therefore, more discussion of formative causation is bound to come up.

        In brief, the theory of formative causation states that nature is habitual, that chemicals, cells, organisms, galaxies, societies – morphogenetic processes at all levels – tend to develop in the same ways they have in the past. Each time something takes shape, it is influenced, through resonance, by every previous similar formation. At first, there may be variation, but after many such formations, a habit is established. The crystallization of synthetic organic compounds offers a unique opportunity to observe something developing for the first time. Sheldrake hypothesized that if formative causation were true, then the first few times a novel compound crystallized, it would do so slowly, as if it were working things out. Then, as the process happened more often, the compound would essentially learn how it “liked” to form and later the process would speed up, then stabilize. This is precisely what he found when examining crystallographic data. Such habits of formation are not absolute, they are probabilistic and can evolve over time. The AIDS drug ritonavir had to be pulled from the market when it spontaneously changed after a few months of manufacture. The new polymorph wasn’t as effective and the manufacturer couldn’t reliably produce the original polymorph, even after spending millions (see _Morphic Resonance, the Nature of Formative Causation_ page 96).

        To really understand the theory, it’s going to take way more than 18 minutes, or one paragraph, but hopefully this gives you a slightly better picture.

      • Izanami Vaughn-Haile commented on Mar 19 2013

        So you admit that the more scientific-based talk of the two is more offensive to you? That’s called bias, and is no real reason to discount the evidence that the issue of consciousness has not yet found a resolution in the scientific community. Until scientists can agree on proofs universally, these theories are an absolute NECESSITY. Without them, there would be no directions to look. If you can admit you are no expert on the subject, then why do you continue to pursue the topic as if you were one?

        However, the issue here is not, and never was, the issue of his sciences or theories. The issue is that the videos were removed from the normal place and given a “special place” to be reviewed and debated. Which means the only people that even CAN speak about this has to have been invited in some way by a Sheldrake or Hancock supporter. So you have essentially blocked the real stream of communication possibly because in the light of REAL scrutiny, your positions would likely be found lacking.

        I challenge you to put them back on youtube where they were originally, for all TED viewers to see. Put your own “special disclaimer” on it so that people know it does not represent the views of TED and that the anonymous board of TED regards this as pseudoscience. That’s fine, address that TED itself has an opinion. But put it where it should be, and let the debate continue forward. Calling this a fresh start is similar to calling concentration camps “refugee relocation.” A fresh start would be for TED to admit they made a mistake in pulling it, use the massive internet tools available to brand the videos with a TED-approved disclaimer of disapproval and let the videos circulate as they should have initially. Anything less than that is insulting to your viewer’s intelligence.

    • Time Walker commented on Mar 18 2013

      Cory Warshaw writes:

      “I find it interesting that most of the detractors are supporting Hancock, but don’t often mention Sheldrake. I would assume this is because Sheldrake makes provably false claims, such as ideas like morphic resonance.”

      When you assume you make an ass of u and me. The reason there are so many Hancock supporters on these threads is that Hancock responded immediately to the decision from TED by doing what he does best: writing about it. He posted regular updates on Facebook and his friends and followers were outraged. Rupert Sheldrake, as Hancock explained quite clearly, is traveling in India with intermittent internet, so he’s been slower to respond. It really is that simple.

      I hope your statement isn’t indicative of the rigor with which TED and its franchisers investigate things and challenge their own assumptions… Oh, wait. Never mind.

      • Troy Tice commented on Mar 18 2013

        No need to be catty.

    • Frank Matera commented on Mar 18 2013

      “Cory Warshaw commented on Mar 18 2013

      I find it interesting that most of the detractors are supporting Hancock, but don’t often mention Sheldrake. I would assume this is because Sheldrake makes provably false claims, such as ideas like morphic resonance.”

      That’s a pretty ridiculous assumption with no basis whatsoever. The reason you are hearing less about Sheldrake is more than likely because Sheldrake (for anyone who knows him) is not a chest beater out to convince the world his religion is right (unlike most materialist atheist skeptics).

      Sheldrake tries to convince people to think outside of what we know and to investigate his hypothesis using Science. Wouldn’t that be nice for a change.

      You bring up the “Flat Earthers” as bad science and compare that to Sheldrake’s hypothesis on Morphic Resonance. I mean really? I would say the scientific evidence that the world is round is pretty overwhelming to most. Show me the scientific evidence in regards to Consciousness. It isn’t even in the same ball park.

      I’d also be careful when saying “Sheldrake made false statements”. Sheldrake has already responded to TED and made it very clear none of his statements were false… and that it was libel for TED to state it, which TED themselves agreed above. You seem to be making the same accusation with little to no evidence.

    • Jim Schneider commented on Mar 19 2013

      Cory Warshaw, please read Rupert Sheldrake’s response to TED’s criticism in the other thread. I think he demolishes all of the arguments their Science Board put forth against his talk. Please be fair and read Sheldrake’s rebuttal before you paint him as a quack. Truly, if TED was shooting straight they would include his rebuttal at the top of this thread.

      • Brady Peneton commented on Mar 19 2013

        Jim,

        Tedstaff did “x out” their comments and include Hancock’s and Sheldrake’s responses in their previous blog. I do agree though that their responses should be included in this blog entry.

    • Marcus T Anthony commented on Mar 19 2013

      Many of Sheldrake’s hypotheses are indeed testable and falsifiable. But if you read up on the experimental data, many of his hypotheses are far from having been dis-proven. There is a body of data which suggests that telepathy is a genuine human and animal capacity, for example. The debate is highly polarised, but ongoing.

      • Izanami Vaughn-Haile commented on Mar 19 2013

        If it is an ongoing debate, then how is it a pseudoscience? Debates aren’t usually held for things that have been entirely ruled out as an “impossibility.” It is precisely this reason that TED should be proudly displaying Sheldrake’s presentation, as yet another side to the ongoing debate of consciousness in general. Instead, TED seems to remorse having opened up what was believed to be a free and open debate about the “ongoing” issue. This is the aspect of TED’s reactions that has caused so much controversy, more so than the individual issues themselves would have created in staying up on the youtube channel.

        • Marg Uerite commented on Mar 20 2013

          Right and the reaction of TED was emotional and psychological, since humans panic when their assumptions and beliefs are questioned.

    • John Campbell commented on Mar 19 2013

      Please do respond to Hancock’s question! Why is it OK for Tim Brown to talk about the creative benefits of mescaline, but not ok for Hancock to discuss the benefits of Ayahuasca. Double standard indeed! Was Tim Brown’s talk subject to anonymous peer-review as well?

    • Izanami Vaughn-Haile commented on Mar 19 2013

      Cory Warshaw, you claim that most of those on here are supporting Hancock and not Sheldrake. I have not seen this to be the case, honestly. It seems to be a bias of what you hope to see, as Sheldrake has, in my opinion, the more compelling argument of the two. With that being said, if Sheldrake has made “provably false claims, such as morphic resonance,” why is it that many quantum physicists and theorists are leaning more and more toward the theory of nonlocality and quantum entanglement, both of which could play an important role in actually proving the morphic resonance theory to be true? And on the note of quantum theory, is it now then the stance of TED that what is being heavily debated between the physics and quantum communities is now regarded as being “pseudoscience?” Until these topics are resolved scientifically, is it not better to accept the possibility of new hypotheses than to outright deny their validity? It seems to me that TED has fallen to the side of classical physics and ignored that a middle line can be walked- the path of true scientific inquiry without bias.

      It is with this understanding I must also pose an interesting theory about this whole debacle: It seems too coincidental that two talks simultaneously offended your anonymous board such that instead of the talks being allowed individual inquiry and debate, they were lumped together as if they were by the same speaker or had the same general topic of discussion. Is this not an effort by TED to associate one with the other in an attempt to debunk Sheldrake’s purely scientific approach to combining quantum and classical physics topics by associating it with a highly socially controversial issue of whether or not to condone psychotropic substances? If not, then why do they share the same page, the same comment panel and the same headlines?

      I wasn’t going to post anything here, because the whole spectacle is absurd to begin with. TED has sensationalized the very talks they wished to sweep under the rug, and I find that amusing. But no one has yet questioned why these talks were thrust together, even though the threads connecting them in any real way were slim at best. The talks have little to no relevance in relation to each other, and should never have been combined in such a fashion unless the goal was to associate one with the other for a purpose yet to be disclosed.

      Now, I happen to agree in part with Hancock, so it’s not like I am against his talk in general. But his talk was clearly inflammatory in a social sense, while Sheldrake’s was merely inflammatory to biased, dogmatic scientists on the side of conventional physics. For the average person, Sheldrake’s talk is merely amusing and poses interesting theories that are by no means unusual, and have not yet been disproven in a meaningful sense. Hancock, in contrast, had a much weaker argument using personal experience and religious connotations, though the claims TED used against him were unsubstantiated as well. So, then, why were the two entwined? And what mode of operations do you intend on employing in the future when you find talks that your board doesn’t like? These are important questions, and I certainly hope TED has some good answers. Otherwise, this may very well be the beginning of TED’s decline in both a scientific AND a public arena.

      • Izanami Vaughn-Haile commented on Mar 19 2013

        Oh, and before we even start on whether or not quantum theory is a real science or pseudoscience, it was just released 3/15/13 in Scientific American (originally published in ISNS) that they will be using those same theories of nonlocality and entanglement to create coded transmissions.

        http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=quantum-teleportation-in-space-explored-as-message-encryption-solution&WT.mc_id=SA_facebook.

      • Marg Uerite commented on Mar 20 2013

        “why is it that many quantum physicists and theorists are leaning more and more toward the theory of non-locality and quantum entanglement, both of which could play an important role in actually proving the morphic resonance theory to be true? And on the note of quantum theory, is it now then the stance of TED that what is being heavily debated between the physics and quantum communities is now regarded as being “pseudoscience?””

        It’s double standards that are held for the fields of Physics and that of Biology. Sheldrake has commented upon this himself.

        Why is this so? When I asked him this he pointed to theories of science and how a paradigm shift will bring up resistance to the new information.

        You could say that Kuhn’s’s theory about resistance of the mainstream to advances in science predicts the response of TED to Sheldrake’s analysis.

        Karl Popper, the philosopher, should remind scientists that knowledge and truth is acquired though doubt and not by faith.

        Popper held that “a theory is scientific only in so far as it is falsifiable, and should be given up as soon as it is falsified.”

        So the mainstream orthodox science of today needs to discard their falsified model.

        and

        “Popper was an advocate of toleration, he said that intolerance should not be tolerated, for if tolerance allowed intolerance to succeed completely, tolerance itself would be threatened.”